No matter where, how, or why it happens, dealing with property damage is always a high-stress situation. There’s lots of information to collect, phone calls to make, and repairs to coordinate. We’ve put together a go-to list of tips to help you know what to do and what you can expect from your insurance company.
Don’t rely on a police report. While helpful, the police do not determine fault and may not include all the necessary information to provide to your insurance company. Make sure you collect as much information at the scene from to help.
Types of information to collect. Be sure to collect the ID of the other driver, photos of the license plates, names, phone numbers, and emails of any passengers or witnesses. In Virginia, it is also very helpful to have the VIN of the other vehicle. You should ask the other driver for a copy or photo of their insurance identification card which will also include important policy information needed when filing your claim.
Take photos of the entire scene. Be sure to take multiple clear photos of the entire scene, not just the damaged areas of each vehicle. Having complete quality images of both vehicles can protect against previous damage being wrongfully claimed. Claims adjusters also often request images of the debris field to better see where the accident occurred and determine fault.
Call 911 first, then your agent. Emergency responders should always be your first call to manage the situation, then call your insurance agent. By letting them know of the accident and giving them an overview of what happened, your agent can advise on whether it is more beneficial to file the claim against your policy or the other driver’s insurance. If the accident occurs on a holiday or when your agent is not available, be sure to call the carrier’s after-hours claims phone number. This number is usually printed on your auto insurance identification card. You should expect to hear from the insurance company within 1 to 2 business days to begin the claim process.
Keep all bills and receipts. If you have to pay for services like towing out of pocket due to the accident, you can claim the cost of the service or repair under the policy for reimbursement. Keep all receipts and details of payments.
You can have repairs done at any repair shop. Carriers seldom require you to go through a certain repair shop; however, they do have a list of shops in your area if you need a recommendation. Any repair shops listed have an agreement to be a direct service provider for the carrier, which helps make the claim process easier and faster for you as a customer. For glass repairs, nearly all carriers use Safelight, but you can use any glass repair service you prefer.
Roadside Assistance. Most carriers will work with certain companies for roadside assistance. It’s recommended to keep a contact number or business card of a towing and/or roadside assistance company in your vehicle to have handy. Check with your carrier or agent to determine how much available coverage you have toward roadside claims, including towing. Most times, you can bring the paid receipt to your agent for reimbursement of your covered costs.
Tape up windows and prevent further damage. The claim will not cover damage sustained after the incident occurs, so if you have a broken windshield and the temperatures are going to fluctuate heavily, you could be held liable for not preventing further damage and pay out of pocket. Tape up broken windows, cover any damage with a tarp, and tape any loose panels or mirrors tightly so they are secured.
Review your coverage with your insurance agent before filing a claim. In many cases, your deductible, or out-of-pocket responsibility, is higher than the damage amount, which eliminates the need to file a claim at all. Discussing the details of your situation with your agent can prevent submitting an uncovered claim that may cause your rates to go up at your next renewal.
Expect to hear back from your insurance company within 48 hours of filing a claim. Most carriers work hard to assist their clients within the first few days and usually respond within 1-2 business days. When claim volumes are higher than normal due to severe weather or other large-scale catastrophic situations, you should expect a longer wait time. In these circumstances, adjusters may allow customers to make certain repairs to help mitigate further damage before contact is made. Verify with your agent what you can and cannot do in these situations, and keep any receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, like emergency repairs, while you wait to hear from the claims department.
You don’t need to use any particular company for repairs. Most carriers have a list of contractors in your area that you can use if you need a recommendation; however, you are not limited to contractors on the list and may use any company.
Get a quote from a licensed and insured contractor before filing a claim. Be sure to ask any contractors for proof of license and insurance to avoid poor-quality. Wait to file a claim until after you have a quote from a contractor to help determine whether a claim should be filed. This documentation must be sent to your adjuster/carrier as well.
Mitigate water damage in storms. Roof damage, especially in big storms, can leave your home vulnerable to water damage. Contact a water mitigation company to tarp the damaged area quickly. Keep any receipts to send to your insurance company.
When you are insured with an independent agency, like Bacon Insurance Group, we can tailor your policy to fit your insurance needs! Head over to our website, or call our office to learn more!